Pier 57-Reused Shipping Containers-Hudson River Park-NYC

Taking a step back, there was once a day where containerization at the ports was the biggest invention since sliced bread. Kate Ascher in The Works: Anatomy of a City calls it “The Container Revolution.” She states, “because the box can be moved easily from train or truck–or from truck or train to ship–without ever distributing the contents inside, its invention eliminated many of the labor costs associated with the repeated handling of maritime goods.”

We often forget about the importance of maritime freight in New York City because activities have been pushed out of Manhattan to Port Newark, Red Hook and the Global Marine Terminal in Bayonne. But containers have also found fun reuses in urban contexts, in addition to being considered for temporary housing in emergency situations.

1. Pier 57

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Abandoned for over a decade, the pier was finally re-activated this past summer with shipping containers hosting food, art, and other activities. Behind this transformation is architect Young Woo, who also designed Brooklyn’s DeKalb Market, which was also built out of shipping containers.

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2. Shipping Container House in Williamsburg

Photo by Reuben Hernandez, submitted in the East River Ferry/#untappedcities Instagram contest 

This shipping container house in Williamsburg is made of 6 containers, purchased at $1500 each, and insulated with NASA ceramic infused paint. We love what the owner has done with the materials, enabling balconies, natural light and patio spaces.

3. Bike and Roll Storage

Shipping container bike rental Riverside Park Harlem NYC Untapped Cities

Bike and Roll has using shipping containers as bike storage all over the city, including on Governors Island and Castle William.

4. SmorgasBar Beer Garden and Pop-Up Shops at South Street Seaport

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This multi-level shipping container pop-up containing SmorgasBar and other retailers is part of the Howard Hughes effort to rebrand South Street Seaport after Hurricane Sandy. On tap at SmorgasBar are local beers, plus wine and spirits. It’s open daily until October.

5. Ideas City at World Financial Center

Shipping Container-World Financial Center-Arts Brookfield-TRANSported-Untapped CapitalImage via Inhabitat

As part of Ideas City this May, this shipping container in front of World Financial Center was filled with thought-provoking art.

6. Dekalb Market (now closed)

Closed in fall 2012 to make way for a Century 21, DeKalb Market was an early example of the possibilities of shipping containers to host retail, food vendors, and events.

Also of note of course is that there are many strictly functional uses for shipping containers in the city too–for storage, maintenance facilities and more. Keep your eye out!

Get in touch with the author @untappedmich


  1. J says:


  2. We find containers being used for many innovative purposes. In addition to homes you’ll find them as small businesses, banks, storm shelters, storage units, hotels and data centers just to name a few.

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